Windows Server 2003 has a number of features that have the potential to make storage management easier and more efficient. These enhancements will not provide immediate benefit, but, during the next year or so, they could make Windows Server 2003 more manageable from a storage perspective.
The Windows Server 2003 iSCSI driver, which is expected to be available in June as a free download, stands to be one of the most significant storage enhancements because it opens the world of IP-based storage for Windows.
Several vendors, including Cisco Systems Inc., have iSCSI drivers for Windows-based machines. However, the delivery of an iSCSI driver from Microsoft Corp. should help with the future interoperability of iSCSI storage devices because it will give vendors a standard iSCSI driver to test their solutions against.
Volume Shadow Copy Service will allow IT managers to make point-in-time copies of data. When a copy is requested, Volume Shadow Copy Service coordinates with applications to freeze I/Os during the transaction process. This will allow administrators to avoid the problem of long backup windows by using Shadow Copies to feed data to backup applications. Veritas Software Corp. has already implemented support for this service in BackupExec 9.0, and we expect that many other vendors will as well.
Another enhancement that will smooth the path between Windows Server 2003 and storage hardware is VDS (Virtual Disk Service), which has APIs that will link to the management interfaces of enterprise-class RAID units. Administrators will thus need to learn how to use one management utility instead of one for every unit they manage. Assuming wide vendor support of VDS, IT managers may eventually be able to control all storage hardware from a single management interface.